Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt
Kelly L. Green is editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual’s
Children’s Literature edition.
Selina is a young Mennonite girl living in Pennsylvania at the time of
the American Civil War. Raised in the bosom of a loving family, she sees
her world shattered when the pacifistic Mennonites are reviled by both
sides and forced out of their homes. Selina’s family moves to Upper
Canada, but her beloved grandmother stays behind. Selina has only her
quilts, with their precious scraps of cloth from treasured garments, to
remember her by.
Barbara Smucker has proven herself to be as great a master of the
picture book as of the juvenile novel in her first attempt at the genre.
This sophisticated picture book tells a beautiful, if sad, story that
describes the beauty and strength of an admirable community and culture
at a specific point in history. Young children will identify with
Selina’s attachment to her community. The text presents historical
detail in a way that demonstrates both the importance of personal ties
and the sometimes devastating effects of outside forces such as war.
Smucker’s depiction of the interdependent nature of Canadian and
American destinies is especially meaningful to those of us who, like
her, have a foot in both camps. Janet Wilson’s vividly realistic
illustrations, each one framed in its own unique quilted border, shimmer
with the play of sun, moon, and candle light. Highly recommended.